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Thus encouraged, let us then, at all times, and in all places, commend ourselves to our

great high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who is passed into the heavens, and who can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities; and let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us in time of need.”

SERMON IX.

GOD'S PARDONING MERCY EXEMPLIFIED IN THE

PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON.

LUKE xv. 32.—" It was meet that we should make merry

and be glad; for this thy brother was dead and is alive again ; and was lost, and is found.

In the parable, of which the text is a part, an affectionate father is represented as having two sons of very different characters and dispositions. The one, free, indeed, from prevailing vices, yet not gifted with a kind and affectionate heart; the other, who is the principal figure in the parable, thoughtless, licentious, and unruly, addicted to sensual pleasures, and impatient of parental control. He, accordingly, forms a resolution of becoming his own master, and demands before any reasonable time, his portion of the family property. The indulgent father reluctantly, we may suppose, complies with the request of his imprudent son. The rash youth, full of the deceitful hope of unrestrained enjoyment, immediately forsakes his father's house, and goes into a far country, in quest of that happiness he was so eager to enjoy. The sad consequence of such a hasty and inconsiderate resolution is next described. Instead of liberty, he found slavery—slavery so abject and intolerable, that, in place of anticipated happiness, he felt pinching want and poverty : his delusive dream of pleasure vanished, and substantial misery succeeded. He was soon reduced to the necessity of hiring himself for a scanty subsistence, of the coarsest kind, to perform the meanest services to a tyrannical master. At length the bitter experience of such complicated distress, brought him to reflection, and awakened the resolve to cast himself on the mercy of his forsaken and offended father. Melancholy experience had taught him the vanity of all his former vicious pursuits :—and no less deceitful, we may be assured, will every one of a like disposition, find all the pleasures of sin.

They promise much enjoyment at a distance, but end in misery and remorse. A life of vice is, at best, a state of bondage. The wicked are called in Scripture the servants of sin,and beautiful are the words of Zophar, in the Book of Job, to this purpose : “ Though wickedness be sweet in the sinner's mouth, yet it is the gall of asps within

him.” The remembrance of criminal pleasures stings like an adder, and preys on the very vitals of the soul.

The character of the prodigal, delineated in this parable, is, alas, but too common in the world. The pernicious influence of youthful passions to lead men astray from the path of duty and happiness, when unrestrained by reason and conscience, is here represented in the most lively colours. In that early season of life, those habits of virtue or vice are usually formed which mark the future character. In the unrenewed and carnal mind, the tide of sensual excess bears down all opposition ; depraved appetite is increased by indulgence; the restraints of reason and religion become every day more feeble; till at last the dominion of vice

prevails, and the sinner's chief study is to “make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof.” An inordinate love of pleasure is the fatal rock on which the young and thoughtless are too apt to make shipwreck—first, of their faith ; then, of their souls. Alas! what numbers of infatuated prodigals may be seen acting the same ruinous part, afflicting their friends, and reducing themselves to misery, resembling that so finely described in the parable :-wasting the portion of good things they have received from God, in riot and licentiousness ! Happy they who, from a sense of danger and distress, are at length, by

the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, like this thoughtless youth, penetrated with shame and remorse,--convinced of their folly and guilt,—and, ere it be too late, like him, resolve to return to God and a religious life :--that God of mercy, who is represented in the parable, as delighting to reclaim sinners from their vicious courses, and save them from everlasting misery.

The Almighty is compared, in a preceding parable, to a faithful shepherd, so watchful for the safety of his flock, that when one of them strays from the fold, he goes in search of the thoughtless wanderer, and having found it, joyfully restores it to its former pasture and companions. This is a figure of speech frequently used in Scripture, to express the tender pity and concern of the Father of Mercies for his frail and erring creatures.

- The Lord is my shepherd,” says the Psalmist, “ therefore can I lack nothing." “ He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,” writes Isaiah, prophesying of the Messiah, “He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” Agreeably to which prediction our blessed Saviour is called “the Good Shepherd who giveth his life for the flock ;” and he says of himself, that he is “come to seek and to save that which is lost.” The same comfortable truth is taught in another

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